Nebraska Firefighters Testing Use of Pickup

May 14, 2012

The Lincoln, Neb., fire department has begun testing deployment of a medically equipped pickup to minor medical emergencies rather than sending out ambulances and fire trucks to every emergency call.

The hope is that the pickup will help the department save money and get to emergencies faster – without jeopardizing lives in the process.

“We’re seeing if we can get by without the big rig,” Capt. Dale Wojtasek told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Battalion Chief Bruce Sellon said the test will last three months.

The key to the experiment’s success will be whether firefighters get enough information from callers so that the right vehicles and personnel are dispatched, Wojtasek said.

“You just have to be as prepared as you possibly can,” Wojtasek said. “I don’t want to show up to an emergency and not have what I need to help. I just don’t want to let anyone down.”

The pickup costs less than $50,000, Sellon said, while a ladder truck can cost between $500,000 and $750,000. The pickup gets about 15 mpg, compared to a fire truck, which gets 2.4 mpg.

Sellon also said the pickup is more maneuverable than a fire engine or ladder truck, so it should be able to reach victims quicker.

If the experiment is a success, the pickup will be moved from the department’s headquarters to another station.

The idea of using a pickup isn’t new, said Ken Willette with the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Mass.

“It does seem to be happening more, and I think the economy is the driving force,” he said.

Not seeing an ambulance or fire truck pull up at emergencies may raise some people’s concerns, Willette said.

“That may not be something the community is comfortable with,” he said, “but that is a decision the community has to make.”

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